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S3 Graphic's Chrome 540 GTX: Fully DRM Infected with HDMI and DisplayPort Output
George Ross, March 22, 2009

If you want to watch Blue-ray movies the way the tech gods want you to complete with all the DRM then the only series of video cards you should be looking for is the Chrome 500 series from S3 Graphics. This is not to say that you can't watch Blue-ray movies with any other video cards. It is just a fact the Chrome 500 series are the only video cards that are 100% compliant due to there support of Microsoft's Protected Audio Path.

The 540 GTX adds DDR3 memory and increased clock speeds over the 530 GT and promises to have the same performance as S3 graphics used the same benchmarketing tables for both cards just replaced the 530 with 540. Something else worth noting about the 540 GTX is that it only has 256MB of memory whereas the 530 GT has 512MB.

Packaging and Contents

The 540 GTX is packaged adequately to protect it from the riggers of shipping. The Chrome 500 series ships with a uniquely styled box that if used properly keeps the card from moving so much in the box.

The accessories are nothing to write home about just a warranty card, DVI to D-Sub adapter, driver CD, and WinDVD 8 BD. At least you get a high definition codec included that is nice although the WinDVD bundle is a limited time offer.

Test Hardware

Lets see how the 540 GTX stands against some other entry level graphics cards namely the 9400 GT, the HD 4350, and the 530 GT. Just for kicks I added an overclocked 8800GT in the mix to highlight just how underwhelming all of these entry level GPU's are when compared to a fine mainstream product. Here are the rest of the particulars of the test system.

Processor Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 @ 3.6GHz
Motherboards GIGABYTE GA-EP45C-DS3R
Memory OCZ 4GB DDR3 1600 (PC2 12800) @ 720 MHz (DDR 1440) 7-7-7-28 Dual Channel Mode
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda ES.2 ST3250310NS 250GB 7200 RPM 32MB cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
Video Card ASUS EAH4350 Silent Radeon HD 4350
Catalyst 9.3 w/ Hydravision
SPARKLE GeForce 9400 GT
182.08 Driver
S3 Graphics Chrome 530 GT
v0363 Driver
S3 Graphics Chrome 540 GTX
v0363 Driver
EVGA GeForce 8800GT @ 738MHz Core 1836MHz Shader 1000MHz Memory
182.08 Driver
Optical Disk Drive Pioneer DVR-111DBK
Power Supply Rosewill Xtreme RX750-S-B 750W
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1

Gaming Benchmarks

The 540 GTX has put up some impressive numbers besting its sibling the 530 GT by 30% in overall frames per second, and doing the same to the HD 4350 by 15%. The 540 GTX did lose out to the 9400 GT by 13% in overall frames per second.

Let us go off topic now and look at how the two GPU titans fare against each other. The last time I looked the HD 4350 had better gaming performance than the 9400 GT. This has however changed with the newer GeForce driver 182.08.

Video Playback Benchmarks

The 540 GTX has excellent video playback capabilities better than the HD 4350 when playing back 1080p video, and better than the 9400 GT when playing back a standard DVD.

Power Consumption
These numbers are pretty tight for the entry level cards. The 540 GTX is in line with the other cards.

For $69.95 the Chrome 540 GTX offers the 'real deal' high definition movie experience and allows for limited gaming all of which can be outputted through D-Sub, DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort. Not the worst deal out there for HTPC builders, but if you are in no need of DisplayPort and still want the 'real deal' high definition video experience then save yourself $15 and spring for a 530 GT. Among entry level video cards the Chrome 540 GTX sits on the high side of pricing and in the middle as far as gaming and video playback performance are concerned.

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